It's been a rough 24 hours for Team Trump. The billionaire's campaign manager has been arrested for battery against a female reporter -- with new surveillance conclusively proving that he lied about the incident and smeared his accuser -- and the candidate himself was subjected to a string of inhospitable interviews with conservative radio hosts in Wisconsin. We wrote about his exchange with Charlie Sykes yesterday; later, he hung up on Vicki McKenna after he grew exasperated with her questions about his threats and insults against Heidi Cruz. The Texas Senator narrowly leads in recent Badger State polling and just landed the endorsement of Scott Walker, who is extremely popular among Wisconsin Republicans. Trump, as is his wont, responded to Walker's decision by blasting the governor's record. First, he regurgitated the debunked Democratic attack that Walker racked up a multibillion-dollar deficit, a blatant falsehood that Trump blamed on Time magazine during yesterday's Sykes interview. Using inaccurate left-wing talking points to slam Walker wasn't his fault, the candidate told the host's large statewide audience, because all he did was was repeat what Time had written back then. Over to you, Washington Post fact-checker:
The only time that the $2.2 billion figure has appeared even on Time’s website is after the magazine published a transcript of the second Republican debate, on Sept 16 — and quoted Trump as jabbing at Walker: “In Wisconsin, you’re losing $2.2 billion right now.” He added: “You were supposed to make a billion dollars in the state and you lost $2.2 billion. You have right now a huge budget deficit. That’s not a Democratic talking point, that’s a fact.” But here’s the rub: weeks before Trump uttered the claim at the September debate, fact checkers had already called him out for using it. On July 28, PolitiFact Wisconsin gave Trump a “mostly false” for making this claim in a campaign event. And on July 29, FactCheck.org published an article titled “Wisconsin’s Trumped Up Deficit.” Both fact checks made similar points: Wisconsin, under state law, is required to have a balanced budget. There had once been a projected budget shortfall of $2.2 billion over two years, back in November 2014, after an earlier projection of a $1 billion surplus. But the shortfall was never a deficit — because the law requires a balanced budget. Indeed, on July 12, two weeks before Trump made the comments that were fact checked, Walker signed into law a two-year balanced budget.
The only time that number appeared in print at Time was when they quoted...Donald Trump. And the broader point he was using to pummel Walker had been disproven multiple times. So by repeating the Democrat-approved smear, Trump was either knowingly lying, or he was too lazy and ill-informed to understand the truth. Both options seemed plausible at the time, but not anymore. Less than 24 hours ago, he was called out for the misstatements, for which he blamed the media. The very next day, he repeated the misstatement. There's your answer to the 'lie vs ignorance' question. And here's the kicker:
Let's be crystal clear: Donald Trump is not a conservative. He would not govern as a conservative. He distorts (wildly successful!) adherence to bedrock conservative principles as a means to launch self-serving broadsides against actual conservatives. Let's pretend for a moment that the $2.2 billion number wasn't total garbage. Trump's policy critique would be that Scott Walker did not seize upon that 'opportunity' to justify tax hikes on Wisconsin's workers. This coming from a man who routinely -- and rightly -- bemoans the looming national debt crisis, while rejecting responsible and necessary conservative reforms to the largest drivers of that crisis and vowing not to raise taxes. It's incoherent. It's untenable. It's unserious. It's Trump. I began by asserting that Trump has encountered some campaign turbulence this week. I'll leave you with more evidence to that effect, courtesy of two staunch Trump defenders:
Newt Gingrich on Hannity tonight: Trump's retweet disparaging Heidi Cruz "utterly stupid." It sent a signal of "instability" to voters.— John McCormack (@McCormackJohn) March 29, 2016
And oh, by the way:
Trump earned his 70% unfavorable rating among women *before* his campaign manager was arrested for battery against a woman. That's skill.— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) March 29, 2016